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Unions enlist foreign help on AGOA

by Lesotho Times
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National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU) Secretary General Sam Mokhele

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

LOCAL trade unionists say they have engaged international labour organisations including their South African counterparts in last ditch efforts to save the country from losing its status as a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2017.

AGOA accords duty-free treatment to products exported by beneficiary sub-Saharan countries to the United States including Lesotho.

A determination on Lesotho’s AGOA eligibility will be made before the end of the year and become effective on 1 January 2017.

The Americans last week wrote a letter to Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili informing him that the Lesotho government has not done enough to ensure AGOA eligibility.

And yesterday, local trade unionists told the Lesotho Times they were disappointed by the government’s “intransigence” despite representations including their protest march on 27 November 2016 which culminated in the handover of a petition to Dr Mosisili’s office demanding action towards fulfilling the set requirements for AGOA eligibility.

The march was organised by the Alliance of Non-State Actors (ANSA), a coalition of civic groups.

The Independent Democratic Union of Lesotho (IDUL) Secretary-General Seabata Likoti said: “As concerned workers’ representatives, we have been singing the same song over and over; that the government should urgently conduct reforms in order to extend its AGOA eligibility.”

“It is unfortunate that workers will suffer because of the government they voted into power,” Mr Likoti said, adding they had approached some labour international organisations to plead with the American government without elaborating.

“We hope the intervention of the international organisations can influence the Americans to change their decision and treat Lesotho’s situation as an exceptional case.”

National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU) Secretary-General Sam Mokhele echoed Mr Likoti’s sentiments, adding some factories had closed shop in Maputsoe and Maseru, “while some of them have had to cut jobs because there are no new orders coming.”

Mr Mokhele said Dr Mosisili had not responded to their petition – an indication that government took the AGOA issue for granted.

Government has since professed ignorance of the American letter, with Dr Mosisili’s Political and Economic Advisor, Dr Fako Likoti saying he was “perturbed by recent turn of events where correspondence from the USA government reaches the social media before its intended destination, namely the Lesotho government”.

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